Controversial Laws Shielding Armed Police Officers Under Fire in London


The accusation against an armed police officer for the supposed homicide of Chris Kaba in London has stirred an unsettling ripple among fellow officers. However, at the epicenter of this controversy is a long-standing discord with the prevalent laws.

If there were any modifications in the current legislation, opposition voices might argue that it might prove more challenging to bring officers accountable when things go wrong.

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The existing law establishes personal liability for all actions of an armed police officer. Consequently, they shouldn’t employ excessive force beyond what is required to quell a threat. The responsibility for pulling the trigger lies solely with the individual officer. No commanding officer can order it, nor can a pre-planned strategy to shoot a suspect under any circumstance be made.

What then qualifies as a justifiable act by an officer and when does it cross the line into a crime?

The answer lies in the intricate understanding of the right to self-defence.

In layman’s terms, an officer may initiate force if they genuinely believe it necessary to protect themselves, their colleagues or the public. If this belief is sincerely held, it does not constitute a crime.

This premise was crucial in the 2015 trial of former firearms officer, Anthony Long. Mr Long, a seasoned officer, was part of a special unit surveilling a highly dangerous gang, including a person named Azelle Rodney. They managed to trap the gang in their vehicle, and Rodney, who was in the vehicle, was shot six times in the ensuing escalation.

Long maintained throughout his trial that he had zero choices but to use lethal force because he believed Rodney was reaching for a weapon. Conversely, the prosecutors argued that Long acted too hastily to accurately gauge Rodney’s intentions.

Despite the contention, Mr Long was acquitted. The regulations valued his honest belief of imminent danger during the critical moment more than the tragic outcome.

Another tragic incident involving the unjust killing of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 was chalked up to a grave mistake. Officers shot de Menezes, an electrician, thinking he was a potential suicide bomber, in the London Underground. Although the botched operation led to his death, no individual officer was held legally accountable.

While some officers object to these laws, the non-criminal law applicable in civil cases is also an area of concern. This was highlighted in the case of Jermaine Baker who was shot dead in London under suspicion of involvement in a plot to free two criminal suspects.

This crux of contention went all the way to the Supreme Court, where in July, the ruling was upheld, thereby allowing other officers to face disciplinary actions even if they were not prosecuted for a crime. This ruling stands firm unless Parliament revises it.

Law enforcement officers now advocate for the standard of evidence for wrongdoings to stay aligned with the criminal interpretation of the officer’s genuine belief during their decisive moment of action.

In essence, the current legal protocols are complex. If the home minister considers amending them to address police concerns, it would necessitate parliamentary votes, a process which is time-consuming.

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